Tasker – How to use AutoRemote to control or get information from another Android device

Over on the XDA Noob/Beginners guide to Tasker I was asked how it’s possible to create a profile which will control or return information from another device. For instance, I have some profiles which will allow me to see the battery level of my wife’s phone or react to things like when we are both at Home (such as my automated Christmas tree lights).

So how can I know if my wife is at home or what her battery level is without her having to tell me? There are several ways, one of which is to have Tasker on both phones and to configure a profile on Device B (my wife’s phone) which will send a text to Device A (my phone) with a pre-defined message, i.e. “Home” and for device A to watch for texts from that sender with just that word in it and react to it. This can lead to lots of texts back and forth, creates lots of texts in your messages app and can also cost if you’re in and out a lot and don’t have a large or unlimited text plan.

My preferred method is a more silent back-door approach using the excellent Tasker plugin AutoRemote. You can read the description on the Play Store for more info about this app, but in essence what it does is creates a personal Google url for your device. It then uses this to link other devices and you can send messages via this url directly to another phone which can then react on this message. This is completely silent and works in the background so is a more discreet.

So how to set it up?

First of all both devices which you want to use will require Tasker and AutoRemote to be installed (there is a free version of AR, however it is limited to the amount of characters in a message to 2). Once installed on both devices opening the app up will start the generation of your unique url which will begin with http://goo.gl/. Once you have both urls just click on the devices button within AR and then click the +. Now enter the part after goo.gl/ in the box and let it associate the 2 devices together (You’ll get options to name your devices to make it easier to identify later).

That’s pretty much it for AR, you can now create profiles in Tasker to react to or send messages to the secondary device.

Now to configure Tasker:

To fully utilise AR you need to have a profile setup on device A to send a message, and a profile on device B to run whatever task you need on receipt of the message. I’ll start with setting up a basic battery level checker. Device A being my main device & Device B being a secondary tablet/phone for which I want to find the battery level for. What this will do is send a message to Device B asking for the battery level, and once received back will display it in the notification bar of device A.

While I use the Pro version of AutoRemote and highly recommend purchasing it, I’ll use messages with just 2 characters which will work on the free version so you can test before purchasing it. I’ve used “ba” for battery, and “br” for battery response. But you can tailor these as you see fit.

1. Device A. Requesting the battery level. This is just the task, you can assign it to a widget or set it up to run every half hour or so in a profile. I leave that up to you.

  • Task Name: BatteryQuery
  • Task: Plugin – AutoRemote Message
    • Configure:
      • Device: DeviceB
      • Message: ba

2. Device B. Receives the message and sends one back with the battery level.

  • Context: State – Plugin – AutoRemote
    • Configure: Event Behaviour: checked
    • Message Filter: ba
  • Task: Plugin – AutoRemote Message
    • Configure:
      • Device: DeviceA
      • Message: br=:=%BATT

3. Device A. Gets the battery level back and puts it into a notification.

  • Context: State – Plugin – AutoRemote
    • Configure:
      • Event Behaviour: checked
      • Message Filter: br
  • Task1: Variable Set
    • Name: %DeviceBBatt
    • To: %arcomm
  • Task2: Alert – Notify
    • Title: Device B Battery Level
    • Text: %DeviceBBatt
    • Icon: Pick one, I’d suggest one that looks like a battery

And that’s essentially it. Now if you trigger the task from Device A you should get a response back within a few seconds.

If you have some knowledge on Tasker variables you can do all sorts like have Device A send a find command (“fi”) and have Device B raise all volumes and sound an alert. Even have it find the phone by getting Device B to use the Misc – Get Location task to establish a GPS fix and then send that as something like “lo=:=%LOC” back to device A. On receipt Device A could write the %arcomm to a user variable and then run the task Open Map in point mode to the Lat/Long of your newly created variable (if you do this, add a label in this task to get a precise location).

Other ideas are on the AutoRemote main page. Ones I use and like are turning your PC off at night (yep, There’s an AutoRemote program to enable you to control a PC as well). Open a specific app on a secondary phone when you leave the house, this starts the IPWebcam app on one of my old phones to be used as a home surveillance camera. The world really is your oyster.

You could even use the AutoVoice app as your context for the first task. So for instance you can press the AV shortcut on the homescreen and say “What is DeviceB’s battery level”… this could trigger the AR message to be sent…. it could even read it back to you using Tasker’s ‘Say’ task.

This is a very basic step by step of how to create a simple task. You can do a lot more using the AR variables and multiple parameters. A Good guide to these extra features can be found on the Pocketables.com site here.

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What is Tasker for Android?

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I remember when I first started using Android, there was all this talk of automating what you can do on your phone using an app called Tasker. I was new to all this so it really intrigued me as previously I’d used Symbian and had time contexts to establish a silent mode at work… But that was about it automation wise. So what else did Tasker offer? Well I read a few reviews and decided I’d give it a shot.

For those of you who are not familiar with the app, here’s the header description from the Play Store:

“Total Automation, from settings to SMS. ADC2 finalist!

* Triggers: App, Time, Day, Location, Hard/Soft State, Event, Shortcut, Widget, Timer, Plugins
* Actions: 200+ built-in, plugin support
* Tasks: loops, variables, conditions
* Scenes: design your own screen overlays
* App Creation: create your own standalone apps to share or sell! (Android 2.3+)”

Basically speaking, you can act on any type of single or multiple contexts (triggers) such as your location, connection to WiFi or Bluetooth device, opening an app, time/day, email or text received etc… There are too many to list. Based on these triggers you can then create a task list of what you want your phone to do when this profile becomes active. A simple and popular example would be something like when at work (triggered by connection to a particular WiFi AP or using Tasker’s own location map service) then turn silent mode on and Bluetooth off. When exiting the work location re-enable sounds and turn BT on for connection to a car handsfree.

You can organise your profiles into projects, so I keep my main Home, Work Car etc on the first tab and have split things like notifiers, Alarm creators, Home Automation etc into their own projects. Here you can see my main project page:

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As you can see in green my ‘Work’ profile is enabled and I have expanded this view so you can see the contexts used (%Car is a user variable which will be covered in a later post, but is basically saying if I’m not in my car. The AutoLocation context is a plugin from the AutoApps range of plugins for Tasker from a developer called Joao. However Tasker has a built in function to create locations).

I then have enter tasks in a Task list titled “Work Mode” and exit tasks with the aptly named “Work Mode Off”. Here’s is my Work Mode task list:

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In effect what I’m saying is when I’m not in the car and I’m in the region of my work I want Silent Mode to be enabled, a user variable of %Work to be set to 1 (I can then use this to ensure tasks or profiles do not get triggered whilst at work i.e. a time based profile which would override my work profile) and finally the screen to remain on when charging (I put my phone in a dock).

This is quite a basic setup, but one that is very useful to have.

Tasker can be found from the Play Store. There is also a 7 day free trial version available direct from the Tasker website.

Further Reading:

Quick Review: QNAP TS-210 SOHO NAS

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I love it, this NAS forms the base of my Home Media/Networking setup. All my files, media, programs etc are all saved on here with individual access for each user. There are so many benefits that I can’t go into them all, however would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a NAS to build a home network. The only thing for me is the CPU & RAM are a little low, but then I guess you get what you pay for and higher specced models are a big jump up. This is perfect for light to moderate usage and streaming media over a wireless N network.

Review: Anker High Precision Programmable Laser Gaming Mouse with 8000 DPI

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First off, I’m not a gamer. However I have Anker products and this is a brand I trust, so getting this mouse as a replacement to my ‘dumb’ mouse was really an easy decision and I would recommend this to anyone.

While slightly larger than my old mouse it fits perfectly into the palm of my hand. The grip point by the thumb is a nice addition to ensure your thumb sits nicely in the right spot with the customisable buttons neatly resting above (the middle button above the thumb also has some ridges to help easily identify which button is which without looking). The mouse glides well over any surface and doesn’t seem to collect grime on the pads as easily as my old mouse. As mentioned in TdHD’s review the Anker logo light is completely customisable to be off or have different breathing speeds and colours. The other lights can only change colour (scroll wheel & DPI lights). While the mouse to me was a little light, the addition of a few supplied weights helped tailor this mouse to be just right for me which is a welcome option. Overall a well built, well designed quality mouse which has already raised a few glances and comments in my office.

As mentioned, I am not a PC gamer… But, I do use a PC a lot for Spreadsheets, VBA, all sorts of other stuff. Sometimes I demonstrate what I am doing and it’s not easy to have the keyboard at hand. By changing the defaults of some of the button clicks I now have direct access to all of my needed tasks directly by my hand, i.e. highlight the text, click a button on the mouse – text is copied. Click a cell somewhere else, click another button – pasted. Fantastic! While I have no real use for the macro record button (hence why I changed the behaviour) I can see that this would be an excellent option for gamers to easily record a melee attack or any other multi-key stroke behaviour which could give an upper-hand in a game.

Installation was a simple plug and play, then off to the ianker website to download the latest drivers in order to customise the mouse. Once installed it’s very intuitive to navigate and select what you want to change.

Ideal users – Obviously gamers. But I will add that anyone who uses keyboard shortcuts, precision software (i.e. photoshop for fine editing thanks to the higher DPI) or just anyone who wants to stand out a little more with a funky mouse sat on their desk will benefit from the features on offer with this mouse. Also of note is that you can have 2 different profiles, so whilst it’s not a quick fix to change the weight of the mouse it’s simple to setup a profile for 2 people who use a computer and each have your own personal settings configured. Another option would be to say have one profile setup for Windows general (copy, paste, windows button etc.) and another profile for Photoshop with buttons set for shortcuts to certain tasks (or for gamers, a Windows profile, and a WoW etc. profile).

Overall for the price this is on offer for I really don’t think you could get much better… Even if you don’t need the higher DPI rate (which other mice in this class are much more expensive), it’s a useful ability to have. Especially with the toggle button to quickly go between 4 customisable made variables. I’ve used the word customisable a lot in this review, and this mouse is exactly that. With the ability to change the weight, lighting, button press functions, DPI, scroll speed/acceleration it really means you can do what you want,when you want. Kudos to Anker for the quality of the product in a price range that needs no second-thought on purchasing. Seriously, if you are reading this then you must be interested in the product (or looking for a mouse of sorts). You won’t find anything better in it’s class and I would suggest the ‘Buy now’ or ‘Add to basket’ button should be the next one you click.

This Anker Mouse is currently available for £25.99 on Amazon.co.uk

Review: Anker® Uspeed USB 3.0 to HDMI / DVI Adapter

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OK, so I have an older laptop (must be about 6 years old now). As such I do not have HDMI out or DVI Out, if I want to connect to the TV I have to use VGA…. But my TV doesn’t support an audio-in as well as VGA. Problem!

So while I don’t need to connect the Laptop to the the TV regularly, Media streaming is accomplished through a NAS and X-Box360 combo. It is still handy to be able to connect the laptop for watching videos with encoders that cannot be played through the X-Box directly such as mkv.

All you need to do is visit the DisplayLink website to download the latest drivers (I decided to just do this direct and not use the pre-packed driver disc to ensure I was running the latest from the start). Once done, plug the device in and let the drivers install, then I plugged it into the TV a violla. Perfect picture and sound on my TV either as an extension to my homescreen or as a duplicate.

I could not be happier, it was so easy to do and the adapter in itself is not huge to become an annoyance if taking it away with you. The added DVI adapter would come in use for those with HDMI ports already taken up on your TV and do not want to unplug, or want to permanently set your PC to the TV as you can just use DVI port instead of HDMI for not much sacrifice in quality.

The only negative I could have for this (and this is more a personal issue) is the length of the USB cable could be a little longer for me to save pulling the pre-existing HDMI cable a bit more out from the cable tidy. But this is really my own issue, so is not impacted on my score for the product.

Nice product, well thought-out and excellent quality as always. Thanks Anker!

Review: Telldus Tellstick NET

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I got this product and have to say that it’s great for a low-cost Home Automation setup. The availability of receiver products is quite wide, although not many are offered through the Amazon website. There are lots of websites which offer receivers such as plugs, light switches/dimmers, temperature sensors, door locks etc.

The benefit of the net is it works with X10, HomeEasy, Nexa and lots of other products using the 433Mhz frequency. All of which can be controlled from anywhere in the world using the Telldus.Live website or Smartphone apps which are built using the API. iPhone users have an official app available, while for Android I recommend the third party app: RemoteStick. You can also easily schedule devices to turn on/off so for instance you can set your Kettle/Coffee machine up the night before and time it to come on before you wake. Or Save power by plugging things like TV’s into a switch so that at night it’s completely shut off instead of in standby.

As for the device; The main unit is small and plugs into your router via an ethernet cable (supplied). Power to the unit is supplied through USB either directly from a socket, or if your router has a USB you can power it from this also (again, relevant cables/plugs provided). My BT HomeHub3 has a USB and this is used to power the transmitter directly.

Once plugged in, you need to go to the Telldus.Live website to authorise the device (all communication goes through the Telldus web servers, this is one of the only downsides to the Tellstick-NET as if you lose Internet connectivity in your home or the servers go down then you cannot control any receiver units until communication is restored). I believe this is something the developers are looking at to see if they can achieve local transmission.

Once done you are good to start adding receiver devices to your home. I initially had 3 plug sockets from Nexa and an Wireless Temperature Sensor THN132N to setup. The Temp sensor just needed batteries and to be placed, the Tellstick picked this up straight away and started receiving readings.

The Nexa plugs I placed 1 on our Kettle plug, 1 on the multi-adapter for the TV/Entertainment setup and the last in the bedroom for things like hair straighteners etc to be plugged into (reason for this is so that if my wife leaves the house and is unsure if she unplugged them, we can just use an app on our phones to remotely turn the switch off – Or if you have Android, you can use a combination of the apps Tasker, AutoRemote & RemoteStick to automatically turn off any plugs when everyone is out the house. Which is what I have done).

The Nexa units again were easy to add to the Tellstick Live account. And all in all setup took about half an hour. I have since added a HomeEasy light dimmer to our bedroom so that I can a.) Turn off the lights in the bedroom without getting out of bed. And, b.) In the morning I have the lights start to dim up in stages starting from about half an hour before my phone alarm is due to go off. Mimicking sunrise to try and make waking up in the morning easier. This is quite an advanced scheme, again using Android apps Tasker, RemoteStick and AutoAlarm. Another setup I had at Christmas time was to turn the Christmas Tree lights on when we were at home, and as soon as we left (i.e. both mine and my wifes phones disconnected from the Wi-Fi) or my tasker night profile became active the lights would turn off.

Summary:
Some of the setups I have are a bit more advanced. However if you are looking to start low-cost Home Automation it is easy to install the tellstick and some plug switches so that you can easily control devices from your phone or while out of the home using smartphone apps or the Telldus.Live website. I would highly recommend anyone consider this as a good option for starting in Home Automation as there are a good range of compatible devices (you can see what on the Telldus website) and these devices are relatively cheap. A set of 3 Nexa plugs come in at around £15.

I love this and am looking at ways of further extending what I can do with it including Heating Control, motion sensors, door opening sensors etc.

Review: HTC In-Car Smartphone Cradle for HTC One

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Packaging & Contents:
Great packaging and just the right size for the product itself. In the box you get the Car Holder with suction mount, a separate disc with sticky pad so you can stick this to your dash/interior and can then use the suction mount against this if window mount is not feasible. A Car charger (for cigarette lighter) and USB cable which is specifically designed with clips so the to secure it to the mount. Lastly, a user guide with multi-language instructions detailing how to fit the carkit and operation.

Products & Fitting:
The main bulk of the car kit is a great quality plastic and looks very good. I like the fact that the suction section is twist-to-stick as opposed to most previous mounts I’ve had which have a tough clip to secure the suction which looks unsightly. This gives the mount a clean look with no unobtrusive parts. The overall size is 9.5cm from base of the suction section to the outside edge of the phone cradle. The phone holder is 7cm in width and 10cm in length, so when adding the phone in you’ll need a space of about 12/13cm lengthwise.

There are 2 ball joints with a connector rod about 2/3cm long. These parts are made from polished silver to give that expensive feel to it. One ball joint is in the suction section and the other on the rear of the phone cradle. This is to enable you to easily swivel the direction of the phone to pretty much any angle you wish… Out of all car kits I’ve had this is a great feature and much better than any previous clip/unclip angle finders which are far more limited than this ball joint mechanism.

The joints are fairly stiff to manoeuvre, but easy enough that it won’t cause any problems angling the phone to how you want it. This means that there should be no worries about the angle moving as you drive or hit bumps. In my opinion this is the perfect balance between stiffness & maneuverability.

The Cigarette adapter isn’t the smallest or cleanest I’ve seen with some protrusion out of the lighter unit by about 3cm, adding the extra from the USB cable end you have to allow for at least 6cm before you get to the flexible cable. It may have also been nice to have a dual USB output, but the single output is fine for my needs and the plastic top has a matt finish to it, while the main body is a shiny plastic. Other than that it is a standard USB sized output, so could be easily used for charging any other USB device.

The supplied cable is around 180cm in length so you should have no problems reaching from the cigarette lighter to wherever you decide to place the mount. Excess cable is suggested to wrap around the silver arm, and there is a space in the suction removal pull tab to hook the cable into to keep it neat and tidy. One end is the standard larger USB and the other end comprises of the smaller micro-USB plug protruding from a small clip which allows this to be securely fitted to the phone cradle. As the plug is protruding, it is entirely feasible to use this for any device which uses the micro-USB connector as a charge port and does not limit you to only having this for the specific use intended.

I have fitted mine to the car using the supplied place pad. Suction is really strong and you can move the angle with ease without any risk of it coming loose. One point to note is that if you turn the phone holder clockwise it can detach from the rest of the unit. I’m not sure of the reason for this, maybe so it can be used as a temporary phone case. However, I wouldn’t suggest this be used as it’s not as sturdy as official phone cases. I would like to see this section be offered as an additional accessory in case of breaking as it is just plastic.

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Usage with Phone:
The phone slides snugly into the cradle, sometimes I’ve had to tweak the charging pin slightly to get it to connect. But it’s not too much of an issue, and isn’t too hard to accomplish. Once the phone is in situ it’s easy to manipulate the phone to the right angle if you’ve knocked it out while inserting the phone. Bluetooth is automatically started, a connection to the handsfree made and the Car Home application loads (unless told not to from within the Car Home app settings).

Options available from the Car Home Application Settings screen;
‘Auto launch’ – Start app when my phone connects to my car dock
‘Auto play’ – Resume Music or Radio after launching app (this will load your last played track or radio station)
‘Auto connect’ – Auto connect to my Bluetooth devices (select which device you want the app to connect to by default)
‘Voice call accessory’ – This allows you to switch in app to a different Bluetooth Device
‘Audio-out accessory’ – Same as above, but for Audio out instead of call out
‘Beats Audio’ – Select this to enable Beats Audio to be applied to your streamed music
‘Read out notification’ – Announce incoming calls and new messages and allow voice command to react to them
‘Notification preview’ – Announce caller ID and sender information for new calls and sender for new messages
‘Show disclaimer’ – Show disclaimer every time I use this app

By default the main screen shows you large image of clock and weather – These are non-interactive so you cannot adjust any clock settings. There is a large button displayed to show you the ‘last played/playing now’ track and several buttons for sending you straight to Navigation, Dialer, Music, Speak, People, Settings, Exit and a ‘+’ button to allow you to add a shortcut to any app you have in your drawer. I would have like the option to add widgets to the Car Home screen as you have multiple screens which you can easily swipe to.

Other than that the buttons are clear and easy to access at a quick glance. It seems that HTC have really tried to provide several levels with this app and not just let the buttons take you to the relevant inbuilt application. i.e. when you press “Dialer” you get a dialer with larger buttons to make it easier while driving. Pressing Navigation takes you to a screen with multiple (large) buttons to either go straight to Google maps, Previous Destinations, Appointment locations, Gas stations, Restaurants etc. It even has the option to go by photo, using the location info from the photo’s in your gallery (if available).

Speak is interesting. It’s quite clever in so much that when you press this button it simulates a call to itself so that you actually speak and hear with your handsfree for the voice commands rather than using the phone’s inbuilt mic & speaker. One issue I’ve encountered is if the voice command fails sometimes the call remains active and you have to manually end it.

Other than the few little issues the app is really good. Screen stays on while docked so you don’t have to keep pressing the unlock button on the phone. The app works like a launcher so you cannot press the home button to exit it which is a little annoying if you want to access any other apps while the phone is docked, but I can see the reason for this.

Handily when undocking the phone Bluetooth is disabled, so be careful if you’re in a call on your handsfree and want to continue the conversation while in the car after stopping.

Overall Opinion:
This is a great quality accessory, build is exceptional which is what would be expected for an OEM product. Slightly dearer in cost than some multi-purpose carkits, but you get what you pay for with this. But if you’re getting a One and want to extend that luxury feel to the car environment you certainly would not go wrong purchasing this product. Looks-wise it stands out from the crowd and should have the envy of everyone who sees it.

Only negative is really to do with the charging adapter. I would have liked this to sit as flush as possible in the cigarette lighter unit as is possible with some other adapters. To this end I may purchase a smaller adapter to make things as neat as possible.